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Poor and Blessed

Luke 6:20

Before Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church, God showed His favour to people in granting material prosperity. But not many in the Early Church were blessed in that way (1 Corinthians 1:26). Indeed, Jesus seems to have a special ministry to the poor, not giving them wealth - but dignity and courage because they knew He valued them. Indeed He commended the poor widow above the wealthy religious leaders when she gave away everything she had (Mark 12:42-44).

A Very Different Future

Luke 6:21

Although this passage has similarities to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, Luke says that the scene was not a mountain but a 'level place' (Luke 6:17); it is therefore called the 'Sermon on the Plain'. Jesus is teaching the crowds, and also specifically training the newly-called disciples. Ministry was not going to be a joy-ride for them. With their Master, they would have to experience hunger and sorrow; and as leaders of the Early Church, many would be persecuted to death, while others suffered all sorts of personal deprivation.

Happy to be Hated

Luke 6:22-23

Nobody likes being disliked. Hatred and malignant anger are not good; but Jesus would submit to them both. The reason He could endure it, and the pain of the cross, was because He knew about the joy beyond the suffering (Hebrews 12:2). The future apostles needed training to tread the same path. Although it was hard enough to think about their Master's distress, and they were scared for their own lives (Mark 14:50), they would soon rejoice in the privilege of persecution for the sake of Christ (Acts 5:41).

Woe to the Wealthy

Luke 6:24

Woe is a slightly old-fashioned English word. It means, 'grief is coming' which is a fair translation of the Greek word used here. It is both a prediction and a warning: definitely not a route to be recommended. This 'woe' is the other side of the coin to the 'blessing' in verse 20. There, the poor who seek God's kingdom are satisfied. Here, the rich seem to be self-satisfied; they have already reached the climax of contentment and there is nothing more for them. Like the rich fool (Luke 12:15-21), everybody leaves everything when they die: the more they have, the more they leave.

Woe to the Satisfied

Luke 6:25

Prosperous people think that they have a right to as much food and merriment as they want. Others, are grateful to have enough for survival. In this verse, Jesus gives a stern warning about the dangers of a lifestyle ruled by comfort and pleasure - if you live for what you can get in this life, there is no future with God in eternity (Jesus tells a parable about this in Luke 16:19-31).

Woe to the Popular

Luke 6:26

Popularity opens the door to many temptations, especially for religious people. The admiring crowd with their personal compliments are powerful tools to reopen the old life of sin. Corrupt human nature longs to be the centre of attention, with the ability to influence, persuade, command or simply bathe in the glory of human approval. Whenever we take the glory without passing it on to Christ, we put ourselves in His place - the danger-zone where Satan can tempt us that we are above our Maker, and therefore we can do whatever we like.

Listening and Loving the Unlovely

Luke 6:27-28

We tend to listen out for what we want to hear. But Jesus said that, unless the disciples and the crowd chose to hear His very different 'take' on relationships, they would learn nothing. His lesson was about loving. Naturally, we love those who love us and hate those who are hostile. However Jesus knew that enemies would stay hostile unless love came into their lives from somewhere: and the most potent source of love to an angry person comes from the victim of his/her anger.

Turning the Other Cheek

Luke 6:29

This verse has become so famous; it has become a part of colloquial English, although most people do not know where the phrase comes from! This is the fifth of Jesus' seven sayings about the unconditional love which should characterise all the citizens of God's Kingdom: Love your enemies (v27); do good to those who hate you (v27); bless those who curse you (v28); pray for those who ill-treat you (v28); do not fight back (v29); give without demands (v29-30); treat others as you would like to be treated (v31).

Holding Things Lightly

Luke 6:30

Materialism invaded our world long ago; along with abuses of power, legal disputes over property, illegal and violent behaviour. Today's verse might refer to street robbery, suing for damages, violent neighbours, unscrupulous family members; or the habit of poorly paid Roman soldiers and civil servants (like tax collectors) who assumed the right to demand whatever you had without reference to any authority. And such travesties of justice are still common today in many parts of the world.

The Golden Rule

Luke 6:31

This verse has been referred to as the 'Golden Rule'. It is simple, unambiguous, non-compromising; and interestingly, it resonates with our instinct for natural justice and is echoed by many philosophies. We know that it is the essence of God's law to Israel, because Jesus says that this command sums up the teaching of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). In other words, this is what God expects of the citizens of His kingdom.